Earlier this week it was announced that Amazing Radio would no longer be broadcasting on DAB radio after failing to secure acceptable terms for an extension to their contract with Digital 1. The news was initially met with unified dismay, this dismay quickly turned to defiance as listeners rallied to support the station and get it back where it rightly belongs on UK wide DAB radio. You can now sport the customary Twitter Twibbon, and sign the petition.
It would be easy to assume the commercial free, independent radio station had simply gone bust. In fact the opposite is true, Amazing Radio broke even in January and are waiting on $30m investment from Silicon Valley to expand both internationally and in the UK. Their cunning business model which involves supplying music for retail environments is working, and working well.
The true facts of this case will likely only ever be known by Amazing Radio and Digital 1. As music fans who have lost DAB access to a brilliant and innovative radio station, we’re naturally going to side with Amazing Radio. Meanwhile Digital 1 may be perceived as a ‘money grabbing land-lord’ that prefers the sound of a cash register to the sound of a quality radio output on its service.
With the memory of BBC 6 Music’s near demise still a vivid memory, and streaming services like Pandora forced out of the UK due to unsustainable streaming costs, it does beg the question why do we continually fail to support innovation and quality broadcasting in this country? The case of BBC 6 Music is a positive example of what can happen when music fans join together to save the station they love. BBC 6 Music picked up Station of the Year at Monday night’s Sony Radio Academy Awards, and this morning it posted another double-digit audience growth. They say no publicity is bad publicity, and if the same applies to Amazing Radio it’s supporters will be delighted.
If you are reading this article and hearing about Amazing Radio for the very first time, then at least something positive has happened. Here is why Amazing Radio is er amazing. As a fan of new music, discovering Amazing Radio was somewhat akin to finding a long-lost brother, or being invited to a super-market sweep, around the world’s best independent record store.
For the first time, here is a radio station that has a vision to change radio for the good of music. It is truly democratic, music is only played if it is added to sister site Amazing Tunes. Once a tune is added it could in theory be played almost immediately. Such was the case when The Daydream Club’s (managed by RCM) remix of ‘Saviour’ by Coockoo hit the site last year. By the afternoon it was then DJ Kyle Wilkinson’s Record Of The Week. Literally amazing…a self released band with no formal radio plugger could get national DAB radio airplay in a matter of hours. Why? Because the decision over airplay was based on the music not advertising or label influence. Try getting your music on to XFM or Absolute Radio without a plugger!
The other thing that strikes you when you listen to Amazing Radio is the DJs all love and are knowledgeable about the music they play. The current lineup of presenters surely represents the strongest in UK radio when it comes to music focused presenters. With the likes of Gill Mills, Shell Zenner, Charlie Ashcroft, Chris Martin and Jim Gellatly true new music champions!
So how does this all get resolved? Ultimately it appears to come down to money. Amazing Radio pay up, Digital 1 back down, or someone stepping in to pay this fee on their behalf. As a radio station that doesn’t broadcast commercials it would be unthinkably sad if advertising was a realistic solution. Although that’s not to say the brand world couldn’t have a role to play.
In my other guise as a sponsorship consultant, I can’t help thinking if maybe sponsorship is the answer. But let’s be clear from the outset, I’m not talking about ‘bad sponsorship’ that see’s eyeballs over passion. I frequently hear brand and sponsorship managers talking about the need to connect to peoples passions and benefit from positive brand value transfer. In reality most sponsorships totally miss the mark, and despite lofty ambitions end up being nothing more than one dimensional adverts that lack any imagination, passion or heart.
The situation with Amazing Radio sounds like the perfect opportunity for any brand that is serious about connecting with youth audiences and aligning themselves to music.
Brands – why don’t you step up, pay the contract extension, and show that you do really understand what your target audiences are passionate about? But please realise, as a white knight sponsor you will only ever get the respect you deserve if you understand your place and role at the table. Your name will not be mentioned in-between every song, and neither does it need to be. You role in saving and supporting Amazing Radio will be cemented in the hearts and memories of the audience the moment that contract extension fee is paid.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t receive credit and mentions for your role, and their is plenty of ways to continue to support your involvement after the cheque is paid. Both Amazing websites offer the natural environment for brand recognition and engagement, supporting the Amazing Sessions - (an incredibly rich source of unique, new music content) is one potential way to extend your involvement without interfering with the music output.
Let’s hope Amazing Radio is restored to the DAB airwaves very soon, however it happens!